Review Face-Off: Ghost – Infestissumam (Loma Vista Recordings)

Monday, 20th May 2013
Rating: 8.7/10

A new feature we’re rolling out is a review “face-off,” where upon two DR staffers will tackle a high-priority release. Since there’s little chance any of us can agree on anything, it serves to create discussion and discord. First up: Ghost’s much-hyped Infestissumam album. – DG

Matthew Bowling: Holy Shit. The sophomore slump is a common pitfall for groups that shock the world with their debuts. Opus Eponymous was a hell of a release in 2010/2011 and its retrotacular sound seemed to rub most people the right way (especially the crowd when I saw them with Opeth and Mastodon in Atlanta last year). So anticipation has been riding enormous for what Infestissumam would bring, especially after the fantastic and barely metal initial single “Secular Haze” emerged late last year.
It doesn’t disappoint, this release is a fuckin’ triumph in the highest order.

Though most of the heavy metal essence that once ran rampant with the band has been scaled back, it doesn’t affect the record in a negative way. Papa Emeritus (…II) and his band of blackened but merry ghouls have brought in influences from across the spectrum of late 60s and early 70s rock, all synthesized in a way that is uniquely Ghost. The aforementioned “Secular Haze” is a melodic firestorm with organs, shuffling, and one of the sweetest basslines ever underlining a very hazy chorus. The bassist, whomever they are, is the unsung hero of this release, their contributions fantastic, be they playful (the stupidly catchy “Jigolo Har Megiddo”) or the attitude-heavy (“Year Zero”). Comparisons to King Diamond/Mercyful Fate ran rampant with Opus Eponymous and there was some warranting it though, not so much this time out. Papa Emeritus shows neither the vocal range nor histrionics, his voice merely a beautiful component of the overall sound.

Variety is everywhere, the band rarely staying put in one kind of thematic gear, though not showing eclecticism in a ‘progressive’ kind of way. “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” is a mixture of Bowie-esque balladry and a corpse-laden beach party (seriously, it’s AWESOME) while “Body and Blood” is a tightly wound piece of nigh-perfect pop structuring. For make no mistake, though the songs here are longer than they were on Opus Eponymous, these are first and foremost songs of the highest order, each with a very pointed focus and trimmed of all considerable fat.

Given that the band is now signed to a major it’ll be curious to see how this release pans out when exposed to the masses, the magical musical mixed with the campy but still over Satanic-imagery (look no further than the closer “Monstrance Clock). Pre-release hype has been enormous and while it remains to be seen if the sales will match, the band has certainly matched the hype and pushed beyond it. This is a capstone release for the year, the decade, and beyond. Spectacular.  Score: 9.5/10

David E. Gehlke: The buzz is still there for the elusive, cloaked Swedes, Ghost having created a rare blend of musical accessibility coupled with mystery. It begs the question: Why would anyone want to find out who these guys really are? Doesn’t that take the fun out of things? It does. Even the ascension to major label land via the Republic subsidiary Lom Vista has kept things at a pretty regular level for Ghost, while their sophomore Infestissuman is less metal…and more vintage rock than its Opus Eponymous predecessor.

Lead single “Secular Haze” was a good tip-off as to how the album’s feel would be. Moog snynthesizers, toned-down distortion, and the abandonment of their proto-Mercyful Fate leanings come to rule the roost not only with this song, but most of the album. “Secular Haze” is a trip, though, a bit off a sinister lullaby, especially in its cadence. Who can’t picture “Jigolo Har Megiddo” rocking some psychedelic dance parties? We can see it. “Year Zero” and “Body and Blood” both have more confidence and anesthetics to them – chanting, vocal effects, and groove, a lot of which just wasn’t there on Opus Eponymous.

Infestissuman’s allure comes with the fact that it’s not Opus Eponymous part II. The two become more disparate with each passing listen, and while the metallics are toned-down, the songwriting charm isn’t. In a rare case of one of our bands graduating to the big leagues and not falling flat on their face, Ghost might be the year’s most rallied-around band. Can’t think of a more cool bunch to get down with, too.  Score: 8/10

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